Rev Peter Crumpler, life-long Bees fan, shares his thoughts on the weekend’s events.
John Lennon probably didn’t have football on his mind when he wrote the mega-hit Imagine back in the 1970s, but the two matches involving Brentford over the last weekend have set me dreaming.
Firstly, the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 match between Germany and Denmark at the Community Stadium on Friday evening put our super new ground on a high-profile international stage with live TV coverage. It was a joyful celebration of the sport.
From my seat in the North Stand, I had a grandstand view of the match. At one point, a lone figure appeared on the top of the South Stand by the big screen. It was too far away for me to recognise the figure…but I imagined it was ‘Mr Brentford’ Peter Gilham looking down at the scene of top European football…and thinking how far the Club had come. Maybe it was.
Friday night’s match was a jubilant festival, with rival fans mixing happily, lots of family groups, and a packed crowd made up of women and men, girls and boys, of all ages enjoying top-quality football in the evening sunshine.
The stadium looked great, my entry and exit to the ground was smooth, security was good but unobtrusive, and there were smiling faces and good service from the staff on duty.
I applaud the Brentford directors for bidding to host the competition – other clubs, I hear, did not step up to the plate. So congratulations to Brentford for hosting the major event so well. And for providing a platform for a brilliant performance by the German side, who ran out 4-0 winners. (Although, because of the Bees’ multiple Danish connections, I was routing for Denmark!)
Congratulations too to Brentford for helping to boost the cause of women playing football – it’s not ‘women’s football’ as one of the pitch-side ads pointed out – and taking forward the club’s ambition to make sport as diverse and accessible as possible.
Less than 24 hours later, the Bees took on Borehamwood FCin a pre-season match at the club’s friendly Meadow Park ground. Again, another perspective on the beautiful game.
Played in the hot Hertfordshire sun, the match gave a good run-out for the Brentford squad ahead of the gruelling Premier League season. Goals for Bryan Mbeumo and Josh Dasilva gave the Bees the win against the ‘giant-killing’ National League side, but the result hardly mattered.
Again, like the Friday evening match, football was the winner, with the game played in a friendly environment, with fans mingling in the stands – and on the terraces (remember them?). The players sat with the fans, posed for selfies and gave autographs.
Thomas Frank kindly signed my copy of Greville Waterman’s comprehensive new book about our debut Premier League season, ‘Just a Bus Stop in Hounslow’, and I’m grateful for that.
The match was another showcase for the sport. It gave the players a chance to stretch their match legs and – importantly– provided much-needed gate revenue to a non-league side with big ambitions. Borehamwood had a good FA Cup run under their belt from last season, taking Premier League’s Everton to knock them out in the fifth round.
So, maybe like John Lennon I’m a dreamer, but those two matches in 24 hours gave me a glimpse of two different aspects of football. Celebrations of joy and fun, rather than abuse being thrown between rival spectators. Players and management mixing with supporters without a big security presence. A place where children and families can feel comfortable at all times.
I know Brentford is working towards these things. The Club is a leader in so many areas of inclusivity and it wants to make attending every football match a positive, welcoming experience.
In the past couple of days, I’ve seen a vision of a different type of football. Maybe, just maybe, one day it will come to pass.
Rev Peter Crumpler
Rev Peter Crumpler is a life-long Bees fan, and a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts.